Joan Baez was introduced to her first large gathering of afficionados by Chicago’s ebullient troubadour Bob Gibson, at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, and the audience, which had come to see the famous Oscar Brand, Odetta, Earl Scruggs, and Jean Ritchie could not have cared less. But when Baez began her first verse in a clean, unaffected soprano, people sat up and looked at one another. By the time she had concluded two duets with Gibson the spectators were congratulating themselves on having been present at the debut of a “star” among folk singers.
At the beginning of the pop culture era when a deliberately cultivated personality was the trademark of the popular performer, Baez deferred from striving to project an ingratiating image of herself. Her stage presence was almost somnabulistic, dark eyes expressionless, lean Indian like features strangely immobile; an effect of the listener of being partly hypnotized and partly intimidated by the lack of assuming airs.
Unlike folk musicologists of the time who traveled with tape recorders through rural tracts to search out obscure, authentic music, Baez concentrated on personal interpretations of the Anglo-American ballads for which she was best known; a “style” consisting in not having a style, of allowing her voice to come through unadorned. She was a phenomenon, thoroughly natural, yet polished and confident. The folk tradition is unself-consciously selective: the songs that last are the best songs, and it was the same as the singers. Baez can be regarded as one of the first “world music” performers; her father was a nuclear physicist working in Paris for UNESCO and she was brought up in New York, Palo-Alto, Boston, Baghdad and wherever else her father happened to be employed. She became something of an American cultural export, like Jackson Pollock….
…Someone else asks her if she still considers herself a protest singer. ‘The foundation of my beliefs is the same as it was when I was 10,’ she says. ‘Non-violence.’ If there is something she can do, then she will do it, she tells me later.
When the civil uprising occurred in Iran earlier this year she recorded a version of We Shall Overcome with a verse in Farsi and posted it on YouTube as a gesture of solidarity. The response, she says, was overwhelming.
She has always been guided by optimism, ‘but nowadays the state of the world doesn’t look terribly good, does it, especially with global warming hanging over our heads on top of everything else. Read More:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/worldfolkandjazz/6173753/Joan-Baez-interview.html